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We're on the 3rd year of a yearly contest and have a bit of a problem with recycling the domain.

Year 1 We used "domain.com" as the URL for the contest. We didn't have any expection or forethought about what to do if there was a second contest.

Year 2 We reused "domain.com" and made a static page of the previous year's winners. This caused issues with permalinks and counts for fb likes etc... (One thing we want to do is highlight peoples entries to the contest in perpetuity)

Year 2.5 Realizing we had a URL problem, we created a static index page at domain.com and moved the year 2 contest to 2010.domain.com. This caused issues with permalinks and social network counts again.

Year 3 We're planning to have the contest at 2011.domain.com from the beginning to deal with the permalink issues. However, we want to use domain.com in marketing materials.

Ideas I have to do this:

  1. Direct people to domain.com and have them click on a big "2011.domain.com" banner.
  2. Move the index page to "contests.domain.com" and add a temporary redirect from domain.com to either the currently active contest or the index page in the event that the contest is over.

Is there a downside to a temporary redirect? Are there any other strategies for dealing with this issue that I missed?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

You can keep domain.com for marketing purposes, use it for the index of the latest events AND keep all content under one domain, which I personally recommend. I really do recommend you use subdirectories rather than subdomains for reasons I will enumerate, however much of my advice can be used with subdomains as well as subdirectories if this is a problem.

Using directories is best the way to get all three though, e.g. domain.com/2011. It can really help your SEO as pointed out in this article by Simon Whatley. This lets you keep all your content in one "place" both physically (one or more servers as you want to) and logically (to both users and search engines it's domain.com, instead of 1.domain.com, 2.domain.com...). The more links to domain.com the better your SEO for that domain, this is where subdomains can hurt you. Here's a great reference on SEO by WebSEO analytics:

When you should use Sub-domains

Subdomains are used when you have different products and services that you want to present by using a different website structure (Google does this for several products such as Adwords, Google Docs etc). Also they can be used for GEO targeting, or for increasing your results in SERPs. In many cases websites use subdomains because they use hosted blog services to power their blogs. Finally for dynamic multilanguage websites, subdomains are a great solution because they can be easily coded and they can achieve good SEO Results.

Users can remember a top level domain, expecting them to remember subdomains can be a big problem, and they look ugly in marketing (search.google.com? No thanks.). Use your current domain.com to serve the index whatever the latest contest is, but save all pages related to a year in a subdirectory domain.com/2011/. You can even URL rewriting to temporarily server domain.com/2011/index instead of an index page in the root directory depending on how your files are served. This process should be transparent to users, keep the URL pretty.

Old Content: Users want to see it, but they don't need to navigate directly to it via URL (95% of them won't know how). Solve this problem with simple links to past contests on the main page, keeping all the old stuff at domain.com/2009 ect.

Finally I don't recommend redirects, they harm your SEO and can slow down your site for users. Instead you can use URL rewrites some info on how here which keep everything pretty, in the same place AND URL, and minimize the need for redirects and over-complicated URLS.

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We're looking at running a multi-year contest that will involved different participating locations each year. I believe the structure we will use is as follows: contest.com/year/property/sub-directories. Your answer confirms we're on the right track. –  tajmo Jan 10 '12 at 22:00
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What is generally at domain.com? Since you plan on using this over and over, I'd think about freeing that up to be fluid forever. If it's still hosting the 2009 content, just bite the bullet and move that 2009 data off domain.com. That domain.com is your most valuable real estate and you should keep it available for the latest, best content.

Then use domain.com as your "hub" with whatever information you think is important - right now, it's the 2011 contest. Have that "hub" point to "spokes" - the 2009 main page, 2010 main page, and the various 2011 details pages, applications, FAQs, etc.

Side note: think about domain.com/2011/ as a scheme, too. No real need to have a subdomain.

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Thanks. 2011.domain.com is more a function of how our app is built than anything else. Your suggestion of domain.com/2011/ seems to be a better experience than a subdomain. –  sudonim Oct 6 '11 at 21:29
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concur with domain.com/2011/ ... partly because you avoid confusion with www.2011.domain.com (which some users will instinctively try). –  Erics Oct 7 '11 at 5:24
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